As climbing grows increasingly popular, more people are seeking to make a career out of the sport. For some, this means competing with dreams of going pro. For others that means guiding or working in a gear shop or a climbing gym. For a select few, however, that means working at Disneyland.
The Matterhorn ride opened at Disneyland in 1959 as a replica 100x smaller than its namesake and was the world’s first steel rollercoaster. Prioritizing experience always, Disney hired professional climbers to climb the mountain that he had created. One of the first to earn the iconic role, Jim Crary explained how he got the gig,
“Our soon to be boss, Chuck Corson, told us “Boys, if you can climb it, the job is yours.” On a warm June afternoon, Dick and I reconnoitered for a route. We climbed over the fence erected to keep all out and were about 20' off the ground when accosted by the Disneyland police. We found out that no one told them what we were doing and that we were supposed to take the ride’s elevator to the inside platform and begin from there. Nice start to a summer job...”
Since then, there has been a long litany of climbers that have donned the lederhosen and worked “in the happiest place on Earth”.
The job itself came with a lot of unique perks. To occupy the climbers between sessions, a break area was created for them inside the upper third of the mountain. A basketball hoop was also installed, allowing climbers to practice their classic cliched love of hand-eye coordination ball sports. According to some workers, there was a large photo of the mountain in this break area that they would take off of the wall to look over and plan out new first ascents.
There was a six-year gap during which the climbers were absent from the exhibit. It became clear just how valuable this experience was to the park guests, as comments filled various forums asking what happened to the climbers and reminiscing over having seen them in their own youth. In 2012, after painting the ‘mountain’ to have more snow, the climbers were brought back. The hiring process to cast the climbers at Disneyland was vague yet drew in large crowds of hopefuls. Not everyone knew what was actually being listed as a job. Susanica Tam* who ended up getting the job recalled that she had gone into the interview having only seen the 50th-anniversary video and thought that she might have to dress up as Mickey Mouse and scale the Matterhorn in that getup. She had said that it was a lot like any casting process and that some well-known climbers had even come to try their luck to get the gig.
The climbers on the attraction were added as a way to keep the guests entertained as they waited in line, a simple way of adding to their experience. Since 1959 however, the climbers have become a much-loved tradition of the park- an experience in and of itself to look forward to. There are not many spots available for the job, but for those lucky enough to land the job and get paid to climb, Disneyland truly feels like a place “where dreams come true”.